Drama achieves one of the essential goals of Waldorf education; to integrate thinking, feeling and willing. This is why in a Waldorf school, drama is not approached through a set of books, nor is it something done only in special interest clubs by a few students. Drama is for the whole class as a part of the curriculum because few other activities address the various aspects of the child’s character so globally or in such an engaging way.
The task of working on a play together also contributes to the social dynamic of the class. Completion of the performance leads to a shared experience of pride in the accomplishment, an experience that strengthens the bond among the students of the class. “The drama” becomes an especially beneficial social experiment for the class when, as is the case in a Waldorf setting, the dramatic subject mirrors the developmental stage of the class.
Every child moves and speaks, however small the part, in a Waldorf school play. The drama engages each and every child as an individual soul and as a social being. In some measure, each performance works to bring the child toward full awareness of who he or she is, and to give awareness and control that will eventually allow the child to take charge of his or her own destiny in life, a destiny that is as particular and unpredictable, and yet as universal, as the destinies of the heroines and heroes, the gods and goddesses of the ongoing human drama.
The lower-school drama program is an opportunity for a class to live the curriculum. A class teacher, or someone who is aware of Waldorf teaching methods, writes class plays, working to embody the themes of each year in the lower-school grades. For instance, the life of St. Patrick is a favorite for the second graders as they learn the lives of the saints. In fifth grade, students often bring the stories out of ancient mythology to life. Partly because of the wealth of material written on more contemporary themes the plays in seventh and eighth grade lean toward plays by professional writers and thus allow the students to dig deeper into the complex themes of our modern day. The drama curriculum allows for a developing capacity in students to perform in front of audiences. All students in first grade speak all the parts in unison in presenting a short performance; therefore, no single student is made to stand out. By third grade, individual students may take on individual lines but a “Greek chorus” recites the majority of the play. By sixth grade, individual roles are portrayed mainly if not completely by individual students.
In high school, as the individual student emerges, the plays start investigating individuals within the context of a complex theme. In ninth grade, the students take on short, one-act plays of which there are thousands to choose from. The character development is short, but the students begin to understand individual characteristics of the human being. In tenth through twelfth grade, students take on dramas that offer characters that give them the chance to wrestle with their opposite, highlight themselves, or in a perfect situation, offer them the chance to gaze into their own souls.